The Year of the Lion

I thought it was accepted as a general rule that Brisbane is, first and foremost, a rugby league town. However, some people have argued that point with me, often fiercely. “It’s a bloody city,” they say. And I defer the point accordingly.

But irrespective of the semantics, if the Broncos are winning games, the statement remains undeniably true.

So in the weeks leading up to the first round of AFL footy – delayed by a cricket world cup with a schedule as stretched as a Guernsey over Plugger Lockett’s considerable late-career girth and a Broncos team surging to form with a returned Messiah as head coach – only the slightest burble of interest poured from the font of knowledge that is the Courier Mail on the projected fortunes, or not, of the Brisbane Lions for the season ahead.

Undeterred by the lack of column inches in Rupert’s rag, I endeavoured to learn of the Lions fortunes from other sources, some new and digital, some ancient and mystical, some drunk.

First to the oracle of the electronic age; the all-knowing, all-seeing, almighty Google. In my search for truth or rumour – either would do – I scoured the corners of the digital realm and discovered that people i.e. more than one person, had gazed to the stars and seen the future for 2015; the Lion was in ascendance.

I contemplated the arguments for and against and over several glass canoes at the pub I floated the theory of the Lions making the eight again. While the Lions glory years of the early 2000s have sustained many of the faithful, the golden days aren’t even in the rear view mirror anymore, having receded over the horizon in a flash when Brendon Fevola took the wheel, closed his eyes and put the pedal to the floor.

The crash over the cliff at the end was ferocious. Very few survived the burning wreckage; the indestructible Jonathan Brown, Black and Power, the Scott brothers, Voss (who succumbed a couple of years later), and Leppitsch.

But this year, 2015, could the Lions maybe, possibly, line up for finals footy?

Most people around the table in the pub thought the answer to that question was an unequivocal “No”, unconvinced by Leppitsch as coach and adamant that our list was too young and too thin. This year’s Lions would be Silverchair-era Daniel Johns. We needed time to get deeper and more mature, in 2017 we could be Barry White. But not this year.

With the issue decided, pots were drained and I exited out into the night to stumble home in the balmy air. As I walked over the Kurilpa bridge I took a moment to look up into the sky and for the life of me, in between Saturn and what could have only been the moon, I’m sure I saw a Lion. Who cares what the boys said, 2015 could be our year.

Then I threw up over the railing.

Truth be told, whatever optimism that existed before the season evaporated very quickly. Losing to Collingwood at any stage is a bitter pill to swallow but losing at home in the first game of the season was like slurping down a dodgy oyster for entrée and knowing as soon as it hits the bottom of your guts that the highlight of the evening will be the cool kiss of the bathroom tiles on your burning cheek in between the mind-bending fever and explosive outbursts brought on by genuinely robust food poisoning.

The second round walloping at the hands of North Melbourne, sans some key players, was still somehow more palatable than that first round oyster, even if the display was more insipid.

“Outs. We’ve got a lot of outs,” my more pro-Lions mates tell me today, and they’re not wrong. Losing our captain and best player to broken ribs in the first week was not ideal, but already this season is looking stunningly familiar to anyone who has watched the Lions play in the last half decade. There are the familiar looping handballs, misdirected kicks, and bodies in maroon, blue and gold crumbling to the turf as the opposition win the majority of contested possessions. Combine these things with a lack of genuine targets up front and an inexperienced backline and the Brisbane Broncos start looking very attractive.

To add insult to repeated loss, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the type of footy being played by other teams in the competition and some of it is indecently good. Sure, it’s early in the season, there will be ebbs and flows, injuries and controversies, and realistically the Lions were never going to compete with the Hawks and Swans of the world this year. But when the likes of Adelaide, Essendon and even the Bulldogs, teams that the Lions were hypothetically fighting with in pre-season discussions for a bottom of the eight spot, have shown what can unreservedly be called ‘flair’ in the opening two rounds, the season ahead takes on a unique kind of gloom.

Last night on the walk home, following another sojourn to the watering hole, I looked up into the twinkling sky and couldn’t find a kitten, let alone a Lion. I did see Orion’s Belt, but after the dose of metaphorical leather the Roos used on Brisbane last weekend it just seemed cruel for the astrological world to rub it in my face. Sadly, I think it might be a sign of things to come.


  1. Brin- lots of funny lines in here. Great stuff.

    And what do you think about one of your brightest young’uns, Aish, probably heading home to Adelaide next year? Ignoring him being in the Magoos this week!


  2. Brin Paulsen says

    Thanks Mickey, glad you liked it.

    Out of contract at the end of the season and dropped to the reserves… yep, clearly, nothing to see there. If you believe that, I’ve got a really nice block of land that went under in the floods a few years back but that is now, absolutely 100% cherry ripe. Oh, you haven’t heard? Water runs uphill these days.

    I must admit, as an almost 30 year old Brisbanite it’s somewhat novel to support a sports team that doesn’t win all the time.

  3. I feel your pain!

  4. Earl O'Neill says

    Great piece, Brin, genuine laughs. Many thanx.

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